These batteries are the future of energy storage.  Scientists looked inside them thanks to a new method

Behind the project are representatives of ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), who used the neutron reflectometry method for the research. We can read about the results of the analyzes carried out on the pages ACS Power Letters.

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First of all, it was possible to establish the links between the performance of these batteries and the presence of a thin film through which the charged lithium atoms move. Its flow between the cathode and the anode translates into the formation of a solid electrolyte, which is one of the defining features of these batteries.

Solid electrolyte batteries can have higher stability and lower wearability than batteries currently in use.

Lithium, while being the basis for batteries currently produced (and nothing indicates that this will change in the near future), is also quite unstable. As a result, batteries are highly flammable, as evidenced by reports of electric cars or bicycles burning. By using solid electrolytes, in theory this problem should be avoided or at least greatly reduced.

Penetration may be possible using a solid electrolyte known as LiPON. It is a lithium-phosphorus oxynitride known to science for a long time, but so far it has not been tested on a larger scale. Due to the formation of an interphase between the electrolyte and the electrode, their thickness and composition may change over time, for example due to charge and discharge cycles. In the case of the described battery, the interphase consists of a lithium-containing layer, with the share of the latter decreasing in favor of LiPON.

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It turns out that in the case of LiPON, a thin layer of interphase makes the lithium non-reactive, so that you don’t have to reduce battery capacity. Using the method mentioned in the introduction, the study authors estimated the interphase thickness to be only 7 nm. The entire project would not have been possible without the neutron reflectometry method, thanks to which scientists were able to look inside the battery in a similar way as an X-ray image provides a bird’s-eye view of the human body.

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